In The News

Monarch butterflies threatened by disappearing milkweed

The number of monarch butterflies migrating south to Mexico has declined in recent years, according to National Geographic Magazine .  In 2004, about 550 million butterflies migrated. Last year, only 33 million made it. Bad weather and excessive deforestation have contributed to the decrease in the monarch butterfly population. However, research indicates disappearing milkweed is the biggest threat. Over 18 years, the plant’s presence has dropped by 21 percent due to U.S. farmers’ use of herbicides. Milkweed is crucial to monarch survival; the butterflies will only lay their eggs on it. The growing caterpillars also eat the plant. To aid recovery, preservationists, researchers and butterfly hobbyists are urging people to plant milkweed in their yards.

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Klamath River study among first year-round looks at nutrients in the "Upside-down river"

Compared to most coastal river systems, the Klamath River is upside down. It starts slow, wide and high in nutrients among farmlands of eastern Oregon. As it flows through northern California toward the Pacific, its basin narrows and turns mountainous, its bed steepens and its water quality improves. A recently published study tracked water quality in the Klamath River as it followed its backward path. It's among the first year-long records of how the river changes from season to season as it flows through farm fields, five reservoirs and forested canyons. A plan to restore the system's formerly prolific salmon runs seeks to remove dams on four of those reservoirs along the Upper Klamath River.

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Microbes found to play role in cave dripstone formation

European researchers have discovered that microbes are capable of creating dripstones in caves, according a release from the University of Southern Denmark . Dripstones were thought to develop only from geological or geochemical activity. However, scientists found that microbes can influence dripstone formation as well. The researchers studied dripstones in the Tjuv-Antes cave in northern Sweden. The scientists speculate that microbe activity could also take place in space. For example, there are Earth-like caves on Mars that could have dripstones formed by microbes, further supporting the theory that life once existed on Mars. Health officials are also interested in microbe study.

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